One of the worst ways I’ve seen people wreck their own mental health is by not knowing their own limits.
If I may borrow a sports metaphor, one sure way to lose at any sport is to try and do too much. Let’s take my favorite sport, hockey, for example. There are 6 players on the ice to start the game, and 14 more ready to substitute on and off through out the game. Each player has a role. None of them plays for all 60 minutes, except for the goaltender, and they pretty much stick to what they are good at. You don’t see a smallish, fast, skater trying to start fights most nights. You shouldn’t see one player skating with the puck by himself against 5 defenders and no teammates, and so on. That would be silly, and counter productive to the goal of winning the game. When you see a player doing too much, it can often be painful to watch, and rarely ends well.
Sadly, I’ve seen many advocates against child abuse, or advocates for mental health, trying to do too much. Usually, they appear on the scene with a lot of bluster, promising to do everything for the cause, and then they are usually gone about as quickly as they appeared, victims of burnout, or their own demons.
So, instead of jumping in head first and doing everything, what would I recommend to any budding advocate?
Do what you can.
Now, of course, the caveat to that, is know what you can do.
Let me talk a little about what that means for me, and then some examples where other people are doing things that I can’t, or shouldn’t.
So first, I need to be aware of what I can do, or what I’m good at. I’ve been active online since the late 90’s, blogging since 2001. So I’m doing that. I’ve been active on social media, and my wife works in social media so I’ve got plenty of help if I need it. Check! I’ve spent much of my professional life training, taking in a lot of information and sharing that with others. I’m good at keeping up with information, learning new things, and have a heart for teaching others the things I learn.
So, over the years, those skills have turned into this website, and the various social media presences tied to it. I can take in a lot of information about child abuse and metal health, and use it to help educate people about it.
I’ve also learned a lot about public speaking over the years, but because my work required a lot of travel, I could never really commit to doing that. Now that I’m pretty much off the road, that is something I’d like to get involved in once I find some opportunities. (If you know of any opportunities, feel free to reach out!)
I only bring that up because I think that’s a perfect example in my own life of knowing my limits. When I was traveling and speaking to groups all of the time, I obviously had the skill to do some public speaking about child abuse, but given my schedule, and the lack of consistency in it, I knew that I couldn’t really commit to it, so I didn’t put that stress on myself. I stuck with what I could do, which was this site and the work behind it.
Recently, I took a solid look at some of the people, and organizations, that I interact with online, and started thinking about all of the things they do, that I can’t. Yes, there’s plenty I can do by sharing stories and information, and talking to people around me about mental health and abuse. Those of you with social media accounts can do the same, provided that it is safe for you to be identified with the topic. But there’s a lot of things I can’t do, but I can still offer my support by promoting the people who do:
I can’t do educational programs with kids in India.
I can’t write music for the Venice Beach skater scene promoting overcoming child abuse, or sell band merchandise to raise money for child abuse programs. Or play classical music to raise money for a child abuse foundation.
I can’t promote stage productions of people telling their mental health stories.
I can’t put together a foundation in Florida.
I can’t run programs to support male survivors in the UK.
I can’t appear in court to advocate for kids.
And while I might actually be able to write a book someday, I haven’t yet. But I’ve seen plenty of others who have done that.
What I can do though, is to help make sure people know about these other advocates who are able to do these things that I cannot. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg, a small list off the top of my head of all the people out there doing good things in this area. I’m always sharing more as I find them on the various platforms. You can help. Click these links. Check out what these folks are doing. Share these, and any others you come across, whether it’s from following my little corner of cyberspace, or wherever you find them. Follow them on social media and share what they are doing. Help raise money for charities who do good work.
None of us need to do everything to advocate for abuse survivors. But we can all do something. Figure out what your something is. The entire community is improved each time someone does something. Figure out where you can do good, and jump in.